News & Analysis

Biggest risers and fallers coming out of the combine

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Running back Christian McCaffrey of Stanford runs with the ball during a drill on day three of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

With the NFL Combine in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look back at the movers and shakers. While the combine may only be a small portion of the entire evaluation process, when the workouts fail to confirm what was seen on tape, it can have an even bigger impact on prospects.

Here’s a look at the 2017 prospects likely to move up and down draft boards coming out of Indianapolis.

Risers

Obi Melifonwu, S, UConn

It may be time to see Melifonwu’s name in the first round of mock drafts. The UConn safety had a dominant workout while showing up at 6-foot-4 223-pounds. Teams have been looking for the “next” Kam Chancellor for a while now, and Melifonwu has the size and explosiveness to fill a box safety role. He may be much more than that, however, as he’s shown capable of making plays in a free safety role, and at the Senior Bowl, he took a few strong reps outside at cornerback. Melifonwu’s buzz is just getting started.

Jordan Willis, Edge, Kansas State

Production meet athleticism. PFF's top-graded edge defender was also a top performer in the workouts, showing great burst and surprising change-of-direction. Even the most cynical PFF analyst looked at Willis as a guy who may struggle in certain aspects of his game, particularly turning the corner as a pass-rusher, but the workouts indicate it may be more scheme-based. Regardless of his limitations, Willis was a force off the edge for Kansas State, and the NFL now has the workouts to back up his production.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey produced a sub-4.5 40 time, but more importantly, his outstanding 6.57 3-cone drill confirmed what we thought about McCaffrey, and that may be just enough for teams to consider him in the first round. He could be a top-round pick as a slot receiver alone, but add in his patient, scheme-diverse running style, and McCaffrey will be a versatile playmaker for a team willing to tap into his skills at the next level.

John Ross, WR, Washington

Ross confirmed that he was fast, but 4.22-fast is eye-popping. The tape has plenty of examples of Ross’ game-changing ability, but putting a number to it is also encouraging. Ross will go from late-first-round hype to potential top-15 hype as NFL teams look for the next speedy playmaker on the outside.

Fallers

Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

On the surface, things look pretty bad for Foster. He was forced to leave the NFL Combine early after an altercation, and that was not the only thing that went poorly in Indianapolis. He did not wow teams with his individual interviews, perhaps souring some despite outstanding on-field play as PFF's top-graded linebacker last season. On the field, Foster is a three-down option capable of playing the run, covering tight ends and running backs, and affecting the quarterback as a blitzer, but combine week may have knocked him out of top-10 consideration.

Jonathan Allen, DI, Alabama

While the tape won’t change, Allen’s mediocre testing may cause teams to reconsider his top-five status. In theory, an average workout shouldn’t change Allen’s projection, as he wins with power and outstanding block-shedding in both the run game and as a pass-rusher, where he led all interior defensive linemen with 67 total QB pressures. Teams picking at the top, however, will feel more comfortable when picking an elite athlete who also has the production backing him.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

It’s an odd story for Cook, who ran a 4.49 40 despite looking like he has next-level speed when the pads are on. That doesn’t change, and his strengths are really his acceleration and ability to get to top speed quickly, but it’s always nice to see the tape match the workouts, and that simply wasn’t the case for Cook. He’s still a first-round talent, but his 40 time may put just enough doubt into teams’ minds for a guy that was pegged as a speed back.

Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Tabor is in the mix to be one of the top cornerbacks off the board, but a poor workout is not helping his chances. He plays fast on the field, though much of his game is predicated on taking chances and making plays on the ball. A 4.62 40, nine bench reps and subpar jumps will certainly raise some questions, however. In a competitive cornerback class, Tabor’s poor combine showing may force him closer to the middle of the pack rather than rising to the top of it.

Ready for the 2017 NFL Draft? Be sure to follow PFF's coverage of the draft throughout the offseason.

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